Carbon Sinks in Crisis — It Looks Like the World’s Largest Rainforest is Starting to Bleed Greenhouse Gasses

This is the kind of thing that’s expected of a +3C world, although the idea of it being a threshold phenomenon is a bit unrealistic. So, it’s expected that these sinks might, overall, start releasing their sequestered Carbon, one here one year, another there another year. But if the biggest sinks start releasing theirs first, well, this is one of the Climate Surprises the IPCC and the U.S. National Climate Change assessment talk about. And they are not at all good.


Back in 2005, and again in 2010, the vast Amazon rainforest, which has been aptly described as the world’s lungs, briefly lost its ability to take in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Its drought-stressed trees were not growing and respiring enough to, on balance, draw carbon out of the air. Fires roared through the forest, transforming trees into kindling and releasing the carbon stored in their wood back into the air.

These episodes were the first times that the Amazon was documented to have lost its ability to take in atmospheric carbon on a net basis. The rainforest had become what’s called carbon-neutral. In other words, it released as much carbon as it took in. Scientists saw this as kind of a big deal.

This summer, a similar switch-off appears to be happening again in the Amazon. A severe drought is again stressing trees even as it is fanning…

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About ecoquant

See Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in bifurcations, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide sequestration, changepoint detection, climate, climate change, climate disruption, disruption, dynamical systems, environment, exponential growth, fossil fuels, geophysics, global warming, IPCC, Lévy flights, Lorenz, Minsky moment, model-free forecasting, physics, population biology, population dynamics, Principles of Planetary Climate, quantitative biology, quantitative ecology, random walk processes, Ray Pierrehumbert, reason, reasonableness, regime shifts, risk, Stefan Rahmstorf, the right to be and act stupid, the tragedy of our present civilization, UU Humanists. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Carbon Sinks in Crisis — It Looks Like the World’s Largest Rainforest is Starting to Bleed Greenhouse Gasses

  1. Yes, but there is a question of Carbon budget. The accounting for CO2 sources is pretty good. If there’s an excess coming into atmosphere not accounted for by ocean outgassing, or known land/biosphere emissions, or fossil fuels, or boosted northern forest growth (and decay), or permafrost melt, then it’s necessary to look for it. Moreover, it is possible to both discriminate between these sources by isotopic signature and close (airborne) monitoring.

  2. spotsylvania says:

    One year does not a pattern make

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